Public Watchdog.org

Winners, Voters And Suckers.

04.06.11

To you Park Ridge voters who cast ballots in yesterday’s election: Well done!

You saw through the absurdity of union-backed Park Board members negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the union that backed them.  And you also appear to have seen through the bluster by members of the Park Ridge Senior Center, who reportedly had targeted incumbent Board members Jim O’Brien and Mary Wynn Ryan for defeat because of their refusal to add a ridiculous new sweetheart Senior Center contract to the ridiculous $180,000/year taxpayer subsidy Senior Center members already receive to keep their private “clubhouse” operating and their annual membership dues at a miniscule $35/member.

We offer our congratulations to both O’Brien and Ryan (who ran away from their “union” opponents by more than a 2-1 majority), along with our hope that they have gained an appreciation for those voters who make the effort to inform themselves about the issues and then go to the polls to vote for good government on a community-wide basis rather than for special deals for the special interests.  We also wish to congratulate newcomer Mel Thillens for his first-place finish in that race: hopefully his performance in office will mirror that lofty ranking.

We congratulate new District 64 Board members Anthony Borrelli and top vote-getter Dan Collins, who claimed two of the three available 4-year seats on that Board.  We find it noteworthy and encouraging that lack of a slate of candidates selected by the General Caucus produced the most competitive District 64 election in memory, with 5 candidates for the three 4-year seats and two candidates for the 2-year seat.  Maybe these two newcomers can help lift the veil of secrecy that has characterized D-64 operations for far too long (Hey, folks, how about entering the 21st Century and joining the City and the Park District in video-recording your meetings and posting them on your website?) – as well as start demanding academic achievement commensurate with the District’s per-pupil cost and its teacher salary levels.

Our congratulations to incumbents John Heyde and Scott Zimmerman come tempered with the suggestion that they stop doing business-as-usual – with all that faux self-esteem that D-64 is so good at generating – and start earning their spurs by actually improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of the education being provided.  And Mr. Heyde…lose the hide-and-seek gamesmanship that characterized your Board’s appointment of the new superintendent, its appointment of Scott Zimmerman as a new Board member, and the presentation of the District’s finances.  That’s just for starters.

On the City level, we congratulate Ald. Joe Sweeney on his first-time election as 1st Ward alderman by a vote of 328-200 over challenger Alana Warren.  As the appointed alderman he often talked the “fiscal conservative” talk but then inexplicably failed to walk the walk.  Here’s hoping he develops a comprehensible philosophy of City government, and then some consistency in its implementation.

And In the always-contentious 7th Ward, congratulations go to Marty Maloney, who handily defeated Franklin Ramirez and Lottie Janus 485-237-52 despite the Herculean efforts of 6th Ward resident Gene Spanos to figuratively tar-and-feather Maloney for having the temerity to say that he can’t justify throwing boxcar numbers of tax dollars at an anti-O’Hare fight for which nobody – not the City of Chicago, not the FAA, not the NIH, not the NTSB, not any of our neighboring communities, and neither our Democrat nor our Republican federal representatives – appears to be allied with us. 

Sweeney and Maloney will join with unopposed incumbent Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd), unopposed write-in candidate Jim Smith (3rd, “the ward democracy forgot”), and unopposed candidates Sal Raspanti (4th), Dan Knight (5th) and Tom Bernick (6th) to form a Council that should be far more fiscally-responsible, transparent and accountable to the taxpayers than the current crop of Frimark holdovers.  Which is good, because the tasks they face look daunting, to say the least – especially after four years of general mismanagement by the clown-car Council heading for the exits.

Finally, as a sad counterpoint to the “congratulations” we have offered the successful candidates and the voters who helped elect them, we offer a hearty round of “boo”s to the vast majority of Park Ridge voters who couldn’t muster enough civic-mindedness to drag their sorry derrieres to the polls.  In the contemporary idiom: “You suck!”

At the very top of the “You suck!” list are the residents of the 3rd Ward, who couldn’t even produce a legitimate petition-filing candidate to actually appear on the ballot.  If this were truly a “just” system, you 3rd Ward derelicts would go unrepresented for the next four years.  But because justice appears to run second to mercy in our system, you will be represented by write-in candidate Jim Smith.

Running right behind the 3rd Ward on the “You suck!” list is the 2nd Ward, where unopposed Ald. Rich DiPietro got 501 fewer votes (723-222) yesterday than he got running unopposed in 2007.  And the bronze “You suck!” medal goes to the 1st Ward, which turned out 508 less voters for this year’s contested race than it did for Dave Schmidt running uncontested in 2007 (1,036 to 528).  Such dereliction of duty reminds us of the following quote:

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves; and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Even those of you in wards where the aldermanic seat was uncontested still had contested races for the Park Board and District 64 School Board that deserved the exercise of your franchise because, combined, they consume over $70 million of our tax dollars each year.  But because you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be bothered to vote…

You suck!

To read or post comments, click on title.

17 comments so far

Gee PD…I think you are being too hard on these folks. After all……“I think that’s just the way it is in Park Ridge because the city is filled with young families, and those parents have their hands full raising young kids. People aren’t disinterested … It’s just hard to find enough time to do it. I can’t fault them for that.”

By the way, rather than but in grade levels of “sucking”, isn’t it easier to say virtually all of us suck?? I mean if there is one person running credit goes to that person and his “team” who got signatures and the like but the rest of the ward didn’t do shit. In fact most of them probably didn’t even show up to vote. If that is how you are measuring “suckage” how about the fact that you cannot get good attendence at a council meeting unless you threaten to bring in a shelter?? I guess they are all watching the meetings on video, yeah right!!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, the Council gets “good attendance” at any meeting where (a) the discussion involves cops and/or firemen getting laid off for budgetary reasons; (b) freeloader community groups looking to suck more slop out of the public trough; and (c) when somebody gets an award, especially if it’s kids whose parents show up for the ceremony and then head out without staying for any of the real meeting.

I forgot to mention…..”Park Ridge is claiming another, more locally curious political feat: three municipal elections in a row where half of the city council races already decided by default”. Apparently we have sucked for awhile!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good point: Add the names of Allegretti and Bach to those of Markech, Jones and Radermacher as people who got elected without opposition and then bailed after one term (or, in the case of Jones, Markech and Radermacher, after one-half term – compliments of Howard Frimark’s cut-the-Council referendum); and don’t forget Bateman and DiPietro, who got re-elected without opposition in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

I just looked at the Cook County Clerk’s election website and compared this year’s seventh ward results with 2007’s and see that turnout was down by over 800 votes. You are right, PW, that does suck.

PD:

As is often the case, your post caused me to revisit and research some old facts. Not that we should take any comfort from it, but it ain’t just a particular ward or good ole’ PR. The truth is that as a country we pretty much suck in this area.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html

EDITOR’S NOTE: You are correct: we should take NO “comfort” from the fact that the country pretty much sucks when it comes to voting – if for no other reason than our demographics (education, income, etc.) are significantly above the national average. And based on yesterday’s turnout, we suck even more than the country as a whole.

PRWD,

It’s my understanding that you were at the PRPD February 17, 2011 meeting and that you, as one witness suggested, got up and spoke eloquently about how the Board should address the contract issue and either vote it up or down but not to ignore it. It was further stated that you indicated that the Board should wait to vote on the resolution.

Were you there? Did you address the Board and did the observer get your position right?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor cannot in good conscience admit to eloquence, but your observer is correct as to the criticism of the resolution and the suggestion that the contract be voted up or down. Just so there is no misunderstanding, however, we oppose the contract for the reasons stated in previous posts.

It is unfortunate that Mel Thillens had to resort to “Dirty Politics” in his race for Park Board Commissioner. I question the real reason he wanted to run for Park Board Member? He never really answered the question. Did he ever mention how many hours prior to his election he sat in the Senior Center office having strategy meetings with staff? Would that not be theft of Park District Time? What is the real reason why Thillens Stadium closed? Why did Park District Commissioner elect move from Park Ridge and to move back? His comment about Union Backing was so inappropriate and unprofessional it is amazing that residents believed him. Be prepared for a not so lofty performance as Park Board Comissioner. The only thing lofty is his ego and that is not the only thing lofty about him.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not quite sure we follow your comment, although we note that the Herald-Advocate reported in a March 22, 2011 article (“Union backed candidates criticized by opponents for park board seats”) that the SEIU paid for the “union” slate of candidates’ signs – so we don’t know what is “so inappropriate and unprofessional,” or unbelievable, about Thillens’ “comment about Union Backing.”

The election is over, let the “crying” begin!! It’s an American tradition!!!!!

Fec posted:

“The only thing lofty is his ego and that is not the only thing lofty about him.”

What?

I guess Watchdog isn’t the only one who was having difficulty following those comments. Glad I’m in good company.

Uhhhh, 5:02am…

No crying by most. Since only about 15% of eligible voters did their duty the other 85% can STFU until next time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While we tend to agree with the STFU sentiment re the derelicts who didn’t vote, they remain citizens – who are entitled to good government and, consequently, entitled to carp when they don’t think they are getting it.

PRWD Editor,

The reason, I am now commenting, is that your verbal position of February 17th regarding an UP or DOWN vote of the jointly-developed and I assume taxpayer-paid PRPD/SSI contract proposal, appears to be the same as mine.

Further, we appear to be of like mind regarding the surprise proposal and passage of the unsolicited “resolution”; in spite of it being delivered only a day or two earlier, not discussed or previously reviewed at a prior public meeting, challenged by one absent Commissioner, and passed by only four of five Board Members with one abstention and two Commissioner’s being absent.

Until PRPD Board Members perform their duty to formally pass or reject the joint-proposal, a proposal that has been on this Boards agenda since early January, Senior’s will rightfully continue to fear the Sward of Damocles, a situation they do not want nor deserve.

Mr. Trizna, sir, in your public statement, you thought the Board wrong then. Where do you stand now?

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, “joint-proposal” is a mischaracterization. The draft contract, while jointly-negotiated by Senior Services’ attorneys/members Owens and Owen and by PRRPD Dir. Ochromowicz and attorney Hoffman, was never actually “proposed” by the PRRPD because neither the PRRPD director nor its attorney have the legal authority to propose (or bind) the PRRPD to such a draft document.

As to the Board’s deferral of consideration of that contract, however, that deferral was ill-advised and/or “wrong” then and remains so.

PRWD Editor,

I see your point.

That said, what do propose the Board do?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our opinion should be pretty clear from our posts of 1/23/08, 4/27/09, 4/5/10, 12/1/10 and 1/27/11: the Board should either require Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. to bridge the annual deficit, or it should recapture enough Senior Center programming hours to bridge that deficit with the net revenues from non-senior programming.

PRWD Editor,

If I recall, you served on that Board.

Your Suggestion #1: “the Board should either require Park Ridge Senior Services, Inc. to bridge the annual deficit”

My question: Knowing what you know about Senior Center operations and functioning of Senior Services, Inc., how do you propose they “bridge the annual deficit”?

Your Suggestion #2: “it should recapture enough Senior Center programming hours to bridge that deficit with the net revenues from non-senior programming.”

My question: Senior Center facilities are already being offered by PRPD for “non-senior programming”, unfortunately, with little success. Knowing the operations of the Park District, what’s your suggestion on turning this situation around?

Let’s assume both suggestions fail then what?

And I am serious!

You seem to believe that PRPD needs to be a break-even or a profitable publicly-funded enterprise. I don’t know how to properly do that. How about you?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re your Q1: One way for the Senior Center members to “bridge the annual deficit” is by more realistic membership fees/dues. As we wrote in our 12/01/10 post, dues of $225/year (about 60 cents a day) should do the job at the current membership level; and for all the wonderful benefits Senior Center members claim the place provides, that seems like a small price to pay – especially when you realize that the PRRPD affiliate kids’ baseball and soccer programs (which are limited to a 3-4 month season) cost around $90 for non-exclusive use of those fields a couple of hours 2-3/3-4 times per week, which annualizes out at over $270. Or maybe the Senior Center needs to recruit more members, as only a small fraction of Park Ridge seniors currently are members.

Re your Q2: It’s up to the PRRPD “professional” staff to figure out which of their existing programs would be best suited to that facility, or institute new programs that play to the facility’s features: perhaps theater-related programming utilizing the stage, or cooking programs utilizing the kitchen. When thinking inside the box doesn’t work, even bureaucrats need to go outside the box.

Re your Q3: The capital costs for the PRRPD’s recreational facilities should be provided by the taxpayers as a whole, but user fees should be employed as much as possible to cover the fully-loaded costs related to that use (e.g., for maintenance, repair, marketing and management). If those facilities provide the users with value, the users should be willing to pay a price commensurate with the value received.

Seriously.

PRWD Editor,

Thank you. I appreciate the thoughtful answers.

Too bad you’re no longer on the Board!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you. When I ran in 1997, I pledged to myself I would serve no more than two terms, assuming the voters would be kind enough to elect me twice. They did, and I did.

PRWD-Editor,

If I may, let me start this part of our dialogue by restating your answer to my third question: “Let’s assume both suggestions fail then what?”

You answered thusly: “Re your Q3: The capital costs for the PRRPD’s recreational facilities should be provided by the taxpayers as a whole, but user fees should be employed as much as possible to cover the fully-loaded costs related to that use (e.g., for maintenance, repair, marketing and management). If those facilities provide the users with value, the users should be willing to pay a price commensurate with the value received.”

I have a question. I understand the concept of “fully-loaded costs”. It works great within a law office for example. However, I fail to see how the its correct application when dealing with a taxpayer-funded park district, let alone PRPD’s Senior Center. Unlike a law office, one can not place a cost or value on every aspect of the Center’s operation.

Can you enlighten me here?

EDITOR’S NOTE: To paraphrase a humorous line from “My Cousin Vinny” about the laws of physics and boiling water: are you saying that the longstanding business maxim (erroneously attributed to both W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker) that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” doesn’t apply to the Park District, or the Senior Center? Sorry, we can’t buy that.

One reason capitalism consistently triumphs over socialism is because you CAN place a value – and a cost – on just about everything, albeit not always with precision. Which is why we find it so ironic that many Senior Center members object to paying more than the meager $35/year while at the same time claiming that the Senior Center is the most important thing in their lives.

By the way, what significance or relationship does that $35 in dues bear to any objective fact or circumstance?

Go, Dog, Go!

The Park Ridge seniors didn’t have the time to carry out a full scale campaign against Mary Ryan. It was started much too late. Perhaps they’ll be ready next time. Also, the seniors did not try to unseat Jim O’Brien.

If seniors make up 40% of the population of Park Ridge, I believe their taxes support much of the park district budget and yet they are expected to fully support the senior center. The argument that all the seniors in Park Ridge don’t belong to the senior center is rediculous. Do all of the children in Park Ridge avail themselves of the many programs and buildings used almost exclusively by children?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your entire argument is rebutted by one simple fact: seniors DON’T “make up 40% of the population of Park Ridge.”

The last statistics we saw put the total “senior” population of Park Ridge at a shade over 7,000, which is less than 20% of the population. And less that 1,000 of those Park Ridge seniors are Senior Center members, so those members account for no more than 2.8% of the property taxes paid to the Park District. That’s game, set and match right there.

But we’ll take an additional few seconds to point out that the ONLY “special interest” besides the Senior Center members that has its “own” facility is Park Ridge Baseball-Softball, which controls that little building (known as “the Loft”) at the corner of Elm and Busse, across from the post office, which it uses to store equipment and uniforms for the PRRPD’s baseball affiliate program. And that program serves over 2,000 kids a year, at approx. $90 a kid for 3-4 months of non-exclusive use of the baseball diamonds.

So your entire argument is just plain tripe; that’s why Senior Center members aren’t, and don’t deserve to be, either an economic or a political force in this community; and that’s why those members are just another group of hand-out recipients.

I was just quoting Mary Wynn Ryan, who stated at the Library Forum that 40% of the population of Park Ridge are seniors. Perhaps the candidate didn’t know what she was talking about. Oh by the way, she raised her hand when asked how many people at the meeting were seniors.

You’ve said that your argument is game, set and match. I don’t think you’ve ever played tennis.

Your statement that the loft is the only thing in Park Ridge dedicated to children is in your words, “just plain tripe”. Who uses all these slides, monkey bars, playgrounds in town? What about maintaining these baseball and socker fields that are used for the most part by children. And then we have the skateboard park and sled hill. The many pools in town are used mostly by children. The ice rink is another example of a facility used in large part by children. Now what percentage of children in Park Ridge are using all these facilities? Not all, by a long shot. Furthermore, children from other areas are using our outdoor parks and playgrounds. You go back to the same old mantra, that all seniors in town are not using the senior center (one facility). Not all children in town are using the (many, many) aforementioned facilities.

“Senior Center members are just hand out recipients”. PLEASE – They’ve been paying taxes here for many years. “They don’t deserve to be an economic or political force.” Are you aware that much of the wealth in this country is in the hands of women? That is because, they are “senior” widows, who know how to invest it and also contribute their wealth to political candidates. The members of the Senior Center are far from feeble minded idiots, as you have portrayed them. They are a group of educated citizens, with a life time of experience to bring to the game and don’t all have Alzheimer’s.

And as a final statement addressing your last paragraph; you’re vitriolic commentary attacking and demeaning members of the senior center as less than intelligent and not worthy of much is insulting. It’s a shame you can’t discuss an issue without lowering yourself to that level. Viciously attacking people won’t encourage others do leave comments on your blog, which is it’s life blood. Intelligent discourse, on the other hand, would be welcome.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the record, you misrepresen our statement, which was that “the ONLY “special interest” besides the Senior Center members that has its “own” facility is Park Ridge Baseball-Softball….” Unlike the Senior Center (and The Loft, for that matter), the monkey bars, soccer and baseball fields, and Oakton ice rink aren’t restricted just to kids during all the times they aren’t being programmed.

Senior Center members definitely ARE “hand out recipients” – to the tune of the roughly $180,000 a year the Center costs the taxpayers because its members won’t pony up more than that measly $35/year dues. So what if they’ve been paying taxes for many years? They’ve been paying for groceries and utilities, too, but we don’t see them going into Jewel or Com Ed and demanding a year’s worth of groceries or electricity for $35.

And when we said those Senior Center members “don’t deserve to be an economic or political force,” we weren’t referring to their mental capacity but, instead, to their shameless “we’re old so give us stuff” entitlement attitude. People with that attitude, irrespective of age, deserve every drop of vitriol we (and anybody else) can muster; and we will do our best to give it to them.



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